Penguins-Senators Preview

Jason Spezza doesn’t have much time to return to form if the

Ottawa Senators want to extend their season.

The star forward hasn’t played since Jan. 27 after undergoing

back surgery for a herniated disk. He’ll rejoin Ottawa’s lineup

Sunday for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with

the Senators trailing 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

”I’m excited to have a chance to play again,” Spezza said. ”I

feel ready to play.”

He will immediately add depth to a struggling offense and power

play.

”We’re excited about the skill that he brings back to our team

and we’re looking forward to it,” Senators coach Paul MacLean

said. ”We certainly feel that he’s going to give us some help on

the power play, for sure. He can help us quite a bit there.”

The Senators’ power play has gone 1 for 7 through the first two

games.

Spezza’s minutes will be monitored, and MacLean suggested his

time on the ice could vary depending on the number of power plays

the Senators get.

Spezza is expected to line up with Milan Michalek and possibly

Colin Greening.

”He’s such a skilled playmaker that if you’re on the ice with

him you know to keep your stick on the ice because he finds a way

to get the puck to you,” Zack Smith said. ”When you’re playing

with guys like that, you’re just more prone to go to the net and go

to those areas and be more confident.”

Spezza hopes his timing comes back quickly.

”Basically I’m just going to go out and work hard and be

smart,” he said. ”I expect to play well.

”I wouldn’t play unless I felt I could help the team and

contribute.”

Spezza had two goals and three assists in just five games during

the regular season.

”It’s going to be important to be in his face right away and

make sure he doesn’t have time and space,” Pittsburgh’s Kris

Letang said. ”He’s got good hands, so he can make you look really

bad. So if you’re in his face and have a good gap, you have a

better chance of having success against him.”

The Senators are undefeated at Scotiabank Place in the playoffs

this year.

”We need to play to our identity,” MacLean said. ”We have to

try and establish our game first. What hurt us in the first two

games is not getting off to a (good) start, and we’re down in the

first three minutes of both games and catch-up hockey is losing

hockey.”

Despite being pulled after allowing three goals in Friday’s

game, Craig Anderson will get the start Sunday.

”They’re going to be desperate and we know this is going to be

the toughest test yet,” Sidney Crosby said. ”We need to start

well, but just a play a complete game and give ourselves a

chance.”

History suggests the Senators might not have one when it comes

to winning this series, as Ottawa has never done so after dropping

the first two games.

Rallying against the Penguins certainly means tighter defense on

Crosby. Ottawa played tentatively in its own end against the

superstar in Game 2, and Crosby took advantage by needing just over

one period to complete his second playoff hat trick in the 4-3

victory.

”He’s one of the best in the game and if you give him time,

space to make plays, to shoot puck he’s going to burn you,”

defenseman Chris Phillips said. ”That’s what we did tonight. We

gave him too much room and he took advantage.”

Pittsburgh outshot Ottawa 42-22 after the Senators held a 36-30

advantage in the opener. The Penguins will look for a similar

effort as they look to take a stranglehold on the series before a

hostile crowd.

”I think that we just turn the page on this one, move onto the

next and prepare the same way,” Crosby said. ”I don’t think we

need to get caught up in the fact that we won two here. They’re

going to be pretty desperate so we better be ready to go in

Ottawa.”